Mt. San Antonio College, School of Continuing Education
Nominated in 2021
Carolina Ponce came from Mexico to the United States when she was in her early twenties. She first enrolled in the ESL Program at Mt. San Antonio College in 2009. She completed the ESL program in 2010 and took some other noncredit courses until 2011. Carolina had plans to get an accounting certificate after completing the ESL Program; however, circumstances and challenges she faced forced her to pause her studies for several years to recover. Carolina returned to Mt. SAC ESL in 2017 to enroll in the Vocational ESL (VESL) Program which helps students improve their English skills while preparing them to transition into credit classes.
For Carolina, the VESL Program was definitely a stepping-stone to achieve her higher education goals. In her own words, "The VESL program encouraged me and was my inspiration to continue with my education. Before attending the VESL program, my only goal was to earn an accounting certificate, but as soon as I saw the opportunities I had, my goals in life changed, and I started to perceive myself as an accountant. I was nominated and won the one of the ESL scholarships, and that was the motor that pushed me to apply for an associate's degree in Accounting."
Through the VESL Program, Carolina took a VESL Writing class where she learned how to write essays, a Speaking class where she learned how express her ideas and give presentations, a Career & Life Planning class where she learned how to apply for college and how to manage her time as a student, and computer courses that helped her improve her typing and learn how to use Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. While Carolina was a VESL student, she also became a mentor to lower-level ESL students. She was an ESL mentor until she transferred to credit courses.
After the VESL Program, Carolina enrolled in credit courses at Mt. San Antonio College where she earned several Associate Degrees and certificates including an AA in Business, an AS in Accounting, and her AS-T in Business Administration. In the year 2020, she transferred to California State University Los Angeles where she is currently working on a B.A. in Accounting.
Carolina has been involved in different activities where she shares her knowledge and abilities with others. She is a Mexican Folklore Dancer who cares about keeping the Mexican culture alive and encourage young generations to learn other cultures. She is currently serving as the CSULA Math Club's secretary, and she volunteers at the Cal State Dream Center to help them organize their events. She is also involved in the Cal State LA Traditional Mentoring Program, and she is a teacher assistant in one of her Management courses. In 2020, Carolina gave a presentation to ESL students during the Annual ESL Career Conference. Carolina took this opportunity to talk about her journey as an ESL student, and she encouraged other ESL students to pursue their goals.
Carolina has faced many difficulties to achieve her goals. About her time in the VESL Program and the ESL Scholarship she won, Carolina wrote, "As an immigrant, I was unemployed and unable to apply for financial aid, so all I had was the $500 scholarship and my aunt's help. In 2017, I became part of Mt. SAC's EOPS and Dream programs. Since the first day, I had put a lot of effort, time, and dedication, studying for every class and taking the bus as my transportation. Meanwhile, with the help of my professors, counselors, and tutors I have been able to keep a GPA of 3.725. Mt. SAC, and the ESL/VESL Programs have had a huge impact on my life because they opened the door I needed to achieve my goals. Today, I am glad to say that I received the Mt. SAC Student of Distinction Award in 2020, I got accepted to Cal State L.A.'s Honors Program, and I became a Phi Kappa Phi Honors Association member."
After graduating from Cal State L.A., Carolina plans to apply for a master's degree in Accounting and take the Certified Public Accountant exam. She also wants to open her own tax business to create more jobs and assist low-income families, regardless of their migratory status.
Here are Carolina's parting words: "Thank you to Mt. SAC, my family, my counselors, my professors, and all the people who believed in my potential to succeed and encouraged me to fight against adversity to make my dreams come true and reach my goals."